Links: Golden Globes backlash, or This one goes out to the ladies

Those of you who hopped on our Golden Globe live-blogging adventure on Sunday (which was way, way more fun than I expected — GIVE YOURSELVES A HAND) might be interested in the following posts on Jezebel about (sadly predictable) sexist reactions to various women at the show:

James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Used To Be Married — Get Over It

‘You Don’t Put A Big Girl In A Big Dress’: Dissing Christina Hendricks

And, my personal favorite: Paper Devotes 363 Word Article To Mo’Nique’s Leg Hair

Basically these are all iterations of a theme: woman dares to look “different” (i.e., boobs, leg hair) and/or succeed artistically, must be put in her place. Well played, media journalists. What daring provocateurs you are.

Your hairy legs could be mass murderers even now

In the spirit of “Obese blamed for world’s ills” comes this little ad video that shows what happens if you fail to shave your legs to absolute smoothness every single day: utter chaos. Not only will dudes be grossed out, but they could DIE! Here’s the link: click “watch film” to see what I mean.

Look, ladies, here’s how it is: even if you’re white and thin and traditionally feminine, and you wore your sandals and your cute sundress with the cleavage and you have no problem with your boyfriend groping you on public transit, if you forgot or, heaven forfend, chose not to shave the invisible stubble from your legs, YOU HAVE DOOMED ALL AROUND YOU TO MISERY. A woman may be pinned on her back under a stranger (god, it’s almost like you WANT her to be assaulted), and a perfectly innocent man who just wants to enjoy his perfectly healthy apple despite the fact that you’re not really supposed to eat on the bus will choke almost to death AND THEN EVERYONE WILL GLARE AT YOU AND YOU WILL GET A TEXT MESSAGE FROM YOUR FUTURE SELF OR SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW.

Here’s the thing: this ad would be kinda cute, in its Rube Goldberg-esque way, if it didn’t start from the premise that all women should be available to groping by men at all times. No matter how much you doll yourself up, if there is any part of you that is not sufficiently hairless and smooth, you are persona non grata in terms of beauty. Stubble turns you from a hot chick into a chick so disgusting that men actually leap away from you. You’ve ruined everything by failing to meet the endlessly exacting standards of beauty, which you can only hope to meet by buying our extra-fancy new razor or beauty creme or undergarment.

And remember, even if you look hairless, since your body is available to be groped at any time, your True Hairlessness is subject to scrutiny. If you are cursed with thick body hair, or dark hair against pale skin, you should probably just carry your fancy-ass razor along with you at all times, since your stubble might be noticeable under fluorescent light or when caressed by a (male) baby.

Because I am, as you know, a humorless feminist and a noted misanthropist, I am about to do something that is so dangerous to the fate of dudes everywhere, it will probably cause the dystopian women-only future that right-wingers have nightmares about. I live in Chicago, where it fucking snowed this morning, which should give you a sense of how many months it’s been since I showed my bare legs in public. Also, I am a very pale white woman with dark, thick hair. By now, you’ve sensed what’s coming: tell the menfolk to hide in the storm cellar lest they catch a glimpse of this, my real leg:

Behold: My hairy damn leg

Behold: My hairy damn leg

I have not shaved in WEEKS. Sometime I go the whole winter without shaving at all, and then I have what I think of as a Deforestation Session in March or April. It’s odd; I’ve lived with a man for six years, but he’s never mentioned the horrible chains of events that must happen to him every day because of my hirsute natural state. He must be suffering in silence, the poor thing.

This is what the beauty ideal is designed to erase: the reality of our bodies. This is what is so scary to proponents of fancy razors, diet pills, fake tans, and all that bullshit: the fact that women have hair on their bodies, just like they’re people or something. Some women are fat and some are thin. Some women have straight swingy hair and some have kinky hair and some have frizzy hair and some just stick what they’ve got in a damn ponytail. Some women have big pillowy lips and some don’t. Some women have curves and some have rolls and some have both and some have neither. Women, just like men, live in human bodies, and human bodies are incredibly diverse. We all know that, even the most brainwashed of us: but we also know we’re not supposed to know it. If we all just said that women are real people — if we said that out loud — what on earth might happen?

Chaos would ensue. Dudes might be harmed.

(Via Feministing.)

Guest Blogger LilahCello: Yes, I’ve got facial hair

I was delighted when LilahCello offered to write up her experiences with facial hair as a guest post. I know this is a topic that hits close to home for many Shapelings; we’ve talked about the politics of head hair here before, but facial hair is a subject that occasionally arises in comments and always spurs a lot of interest. Like LilahCello, I’ve had facial hair since I was a teenager — first on my upper lip, then on my chin — and have spent an inordinate amount of energy on trying to hide that fact. Like fat, facial hair is a reminder that “femininity” is not an inevitable consequence of having a female body; instead, it takes a lot of work — and often, a lot of shame.

My (online) name is LilahCello. I am 33 years old, have been married for 12 years, have 2 children, home school the older one, go to school (training to be a philosopher/ethicist), am fat, have rosacea, have facial hair, have a dog, recently lost his brother, love sunsets and the mountains, and so much more. So, that’s about it. Oh, you saw that? That teensy tiny, little admission? The one thing that I still have trouble talking about, even though I can deconstruct any misogynistic television ads, call myself fat publicly, discuss male circumcision (my field of ethical study) in graphic detail, or explain trans issues to my eight year old? Yes, I have facial hair. I do not have PCOS, I have little body hair elsewhere (although I have thick, thick hair on my head and cute hair on my toes), and I have chin hairs. A goatee, of sorts. And I am embarrassed as all hell about it. I don’t even talk about it with my very kind, loving partner of 14 years who has watched me give birth. He has literally watched my body open itself to let our sons enter this world, and I can’t talk to him about some hair on my chin?

It didn’t happen overnight. When I was a teenager, I had a couple of long, stray hairs on my cheeks. No big deal, right? Clip ‘em off and they were not thought of until I noticed them again. Then, one day, I had more hair, this time on my chin. I don’t remember the exact moment that it happened, nor do I remember much of a build-up. I just know that one day, I suddenly had hair where I hadn’t had it before. I mentioned it to a nurse practitioner during an annual exam once and said that I had to shave it off. “Oh! Don’t do that!” No? Don’t get rid of dark hair on my chin the only way I know how? Cutting it with shears was too difficult and didn’t produce the desired degree of invisibleness. I am too chicken-shit (and embarrassed) to get it waxed, and have not had the money to get it lasered off. Besides, I have heard from friends who wax that you have to let it grow out in order for the wax to adhere. No thanks! So now I shave everyday, or at least every other day, if I happen to forget (then notice it at an inconvenient time). I do it on the sly, which is no easy task in a house that is freely naked, co-showering/bathrooming, etc. I know that I will be coming into a little money when my financial aid comes in, and my plan is to go in and have this arch-nemesis laser-ly removed FOREVER! (Let’s hope that I can afford that when the time comes!) But what do I tell my husband when I go? I have a nursing baby, so I can’t be gone for long. I am guessing that there will be some sort of discomfort and redness afterward, so I can’t deny it. I think that my best bet will be to tell him after I have made the appointment.

This is the person with whom I have chosen to spend the rest of my life. I have children with him, we are equal partners in this life, and I can’t tell him this one little thing. I have talked about it with two other people. One friend who has PCOS and is studying to be a doctor, the other is a very open, unashamed woman (who had grabbed and plucked hairs from my face). Other than that, I deal with it in private. Why do we do this? Why are we so ashamed of something that A. we have no control over, and B. is a totally normal place to grow hair?

Because we are women. Women aren’t supposed to have hair on their faces (or their feet or their bellies or their nipples and so on), though many of us do. Some of us assume it is because of our heritage. All of my Italian grandmas and aunts had moustaches. I have a little bit of dark-ish hair over my lip, but not as much as on my chin. Not yet, at least. As you may remember from earlier in my post, I once had no hair on my chin. Women are supposed to be small (FAIL), quiet (FAIL), hairless (FAIL), pretty (possible FAIL), and reserved (FAIL). (Those are fails on my part. I am a loud, proud, fat, average looking, hairy-chinned woman.) Women ought to be dainty and demure, and that sure as hell doesn’t include having facial hair.

So what do we do about this? Bitch magazine had an article about this in their Spring, 2005 Masculinity issue. What struck me about the article was that women were embracing their facial hair. This is absolutely foreign to me. ME! The woman who hates gender constructs (though I willingly, and I’m sure, unwillingly, play into those constructs) was blown away. The same woman who tells her long-haired son, who is often mistaken for a girl, “So what?! Nothing wrong with being a girl or looking like one!” If I had a daughter, I would tell her the same thing if she “looked like a boy.” But I, a woman with facial hair, do everything in my power to pretend that it isn’t an issue.

Having side-tracked the Stop Her Before She Diets Again! thread to talk about this, I found out that many of you struggle with the same problem, and like me, find it very, very difficult to talk about. So, Shapelings, what is your experience with this elephant in the room –- or on our faces, to be more specific? Do you embrace and flaunt it, or do you pretend that it doesn’t exist while you secretly pluck, shave, or thread it away? How do you deal with people who notice? Do they comment on it? What methods of hair removal have you tried? And, more importantly to this Shapeling –- did it work and did it hurt [the most important question to this scaredy-cat (who has had two children with no drugs, one at home, and one preemie in the hospital, so why should she worry about a few plucky pangs -- but -- she -- does!?!)]? I want to know how others feel, and want others to know that they are not alone or abnormal –- something I believed for years.

Quick hit: More on hair

Stacey Fearnall, a waitress in Ontario, was fired after shaving her head for charity. As Meowser informed us recently, not having the “right” amount or kind of hair can lead women to suicidal thoughts. But as this article reminds us, even if you voluntarily reject your feminine duty to have luscious, fuck-me hair, others are willing to step in and reinforce that particular beauty mandate for you. What if Stacey Fearnall had lost her hair not for a cancer charity but because she had cancer? Would she still have been fired for this “employer-employee matter”?

When my mother had brain surgery a few years ago, the first thing she said when she saw family members in her hospital room was “Don’t look at my hair!” We were so happy that the surgery went successfully we were practically crying, but her first instinct was alarm and shame at the loss of her hair. Luckily, FJ and I were there to assure her that she looked like a cool feminist rock star, and I had knit her a hat that she was allowed to wear right away — but I’ll never forget that her first instinct, even in a post-anesthesia haze, was to hide her bald head.

Guest Blogger Meowser: The Hair Piece

Meowser's bald spot

Meowser with bald spot exposed


Meowser with hairpiece

Flashback, Pomona, California, 1989: My officemate R. and I went out for some drinks, and it got late and she invited me to come stay overnight on her couch rather than drive back to Glendale. R. is an African-American woman with a processed hairdo. At least that’s what I always thought it was, anyway. But right before putting on her jammies, R. nonchalantly slipped the wig off her head, revealing a very short Afro, and placed the wig on a fabric-covered foam head. She didn’t say a word about it, and neither did I.

*

Flashback, Bakersfield, California, 1999: Two years after PCOS-related male-pattern baldness became what I would soon come to know as a lifelong reality for me in my mid-thirties, I was in the market for some type of hair-resembling cover-up for my poor threadbare scalp, having muddled through for the past two years solely on hats, scarves, and the fervent hope that all my neighbors and potential employers were nearsighted. I happened into a tiny wig shop in a strip mall, still crawling with shame that I was one of those freaks who was going bald like a man, and while I was in there I saw a group of young African-American women trying on hairpieces and wigs and giggling. And watching them, and remembering R., all I could think then was, “God, we white women suck when it comes to this stuff. We think that if it doesn’t grow out of our head, it doesn’t count.’ Those women trying on those wigs, they don’t HAVE bad hair days, they feel free to borrow someone else’s hair if they want to! Why can’t we white chicks be smart like them?”

Of course, at that time I knew jackall that could fit in a worm’s mouth about what African-American women, especially those with “professional” aspirations R. never had, were expected to go through on a constant basis in order to have something “socially acceptable” on their heads — the scalp-lacerating hot combs, the noxious chemicals breathed and absorbed through the skin, the Kryptonite-esque avoidance of water anywhere near the face, the cornrows migraine-tight, tight, tight enough to hold a weave. (And if you’re still blissfully unaware of that reality yourself, this post, from an author named Ta Ankh on the Black Hair Yahoo Group via Pam Spaulding, spells it all out in grisly detail. In fact, just as an aside, if you can read just this piece alone and still look me in the eye and tell me “racism is dead,” I want to buy lots of real estate on Planet You, because Planet Me is still pretty frickin’ xenophobic.)

But even if my original line of thinking was somewhat shit-lubed, the basic premise of it — that I needn’t consider myself a failure as a woman if my hair never grew back again — is an idea that I need to hang on to even when it keeps wriggling through my fingers like a greased eel, which it does, again and again and again. Because my hair never did grow back again, and with it gone for more than a decade, it’s unlikely to. Lately I keep washing my hair with Nizoral A-D, which costs five times as much as my usual el-cheapo shampoo — why spend money on hair care products when there’s no goddamn hair to care for? — because it’s supposed to engender hair growth without the side effects of Rogaine, (which can include, among other things, more hair growth on the face, which I need like I need a giant runny nose growing out of my back). I keep checking my scalp every day for signs that I’m not wasting my money like my OB/GYN (who has PCOS herself) warned me I’d be doing if I laid out a thin paper dime for anything that came in a bottle that was supposed to restore hair growth. “Is that a new hair? I mean, it’s all gray and everything, but that totally wasn’t there before! ONE NEW GRAY HAIR, PEOPLE, ONE NEW GRAY HAIR!” When was the last time you heard a woman say that and actually look happy about it?

Flashback, Los Angeles, California, 1992: My friend K., who is a brilliant singer-songwriter-electric guitarist with cascading long, naturally blonde hair and an ongoing love-hate relationship with Sinead O’Connor in her buzzed-scalp phase, announces to me over dinner that during her coffeehouse gig that night, she plans to get her entire head shaved bald. Foolishly, I assume that this is all talk. Shave your head DURING a gig? Even K. isn’t crazy enough for that. But sure enough, that night K. plays her first song and then has her friend L. come up on stage with an electric razor and buzz off every last lock. Blonde hair all over the place. The crowd eats it up; the coffeehouse’s owner — L.’s mother — looks like she might faint from the cleanup job awaiting her after the show. K. rubs her head ecstatically. “I’m bald!” she screeches. “Look at me! I’m fuckin’ BALD!”

Here’s the thing. I know I don’t have to put myself through this. I know. I have a job where I do not have to have any public interaction whatsoever. I live in a town where it would be perfectly acceptable to flout gender expectations. If I wanted to shave my entire head completely bald like K. — or like Lindsay did once, to stunningly lovely effect — the only person who might complain would be C., who’d have to deal with my razor stubble when I nuzzled him. Razor stubble. Already a problem with that on my upper lip, chin, neck — yes, neck! — and anywhere else on my body that ever gets scraped with a razor (legs only when they’re going to be publicly visible or I want to wear tights). Do not want. Besides, my head gets cold nine months out of the year as it is.

And it’s not like I ever had good hair even when there was a lot more of it. My earliest memories involve my mom ripping a brush through my frizzy Jewish head, back in the days when there were no hair conditioners for children, when I was maybe 3 or 4, and telling me (although her own hair was smooth as a bunny’s) that it couldn’t possibly hurt that much. My hair stuck up straight in the air like Ed Grimley’s when it was cut short and grew out to the sides like a Christmas tree when it was long, despite glopping on tons of hot oil treatments and deep conditioners and embracing blowdryers and avoiding blowdryers or whatever some dumbass girl magazine told me I was “supposed” to be doing to make the stuff behave. It was pretty much a hairdresser’s nightmare, not to mention mine, and it commenced a very early love affair with hats and scarves. When I heard Whoopi Goldberg do her old standup bit (referenced in the Ta Ankh piece above) about the little black girl who wrapped her hair in a white towel and pretended it was long, luxurious, natural blonde hair, I too howled in recognition. (I actually got to see Whoopi perform this bit — which she also wrote — live when she was a rising star circa 1984, and it killed.)

I admire women and other femme-identified folks who feel free to screw with ideas of how much hair a woman is “supposed” to have and where. I really do. If they feel free to just let the mustache grow, let the bald spot be, and not apologize for it in any way, they are doing heavy lifting in this world in a way I cannot bring myself to do, not yet. Maybe it’s partly because I’m Aspie and thus feel like I’m potentially nerve-wracking enough to strangers as it is. Maybe it’s because I’m too invested in nice-Jewish-girlhood and don’t want to freak out my mom. But I’m certainly not alone, and I may even be handling it better than a lot of other women in my shoes. I bumped into this the other day during one of my periodic fits of hair-loss-related netsurfing:

A survey by Hairline International, the baldness support group, found that 78% of its female members no longer felt like women, 40% said their marriage had suffered and 63% had considered suicide.

Yes, suicide. Over hair. Granted, that’s in Great Britain and not in America, but I can’t imagine that American women who have the same problem are handling it with much more sangfroid than their British counterparts; Candace Hoffman of Herloss.org says an email questionnaire she distributed to over 100 women dealing with hair loss and baldness revealed that some of those women indeed “teetered on the brink of suicide” because of their condition. Once again, that bears repeating. Suicide. Over hair.

I am emphasizing that not to make light of how these women feel; I am doing so because this really is serious shit, this making women feel like they are total failures and would be better off dead for not fitting a mold for what they are supposed to look like. It really has to stop. I just wish I knew what the hell to do about it, when I don’t feel so hot about the state of my own scalp.

So I ask myself: If I’m willing to reject social programming regarding what the volume of my pantaloons should be, why should it be so much harder to reject social programming about what the volume of hair on top of my head should be?

Flashback, 2006: I am at a fat women’s swim surrounded by dozens of lovely fat chicks in bathing suits. I should be in my element, feeling totally relaxed and safe that I will not be pointed or laughed at for being a giant fatass in the pool. Instead, I find myself noting that not one woman besides me is wearing a bathing cap and that each and every one of them has a lush, full head of hair. “I’m the only bald FREAK in this entire place!” I say to myself, and find myself feeling very cold in the water on this hot afternoon indeed.

I don’t know. Maybe if there were as many bald chicks as there were fat chicks, it wouldn’t be so hard.

Here is one commitment I will make. When I hit the Chunky Dunk this summer, I will not have a meltdown over the hairs Nizoral did not restore. I will, instead, procure the most colorful, outlandish, ridiculous petaled swim cap I can find and wear it with pride in order to protect my head from sunburn and maybe strike up some interesting conversation while I’m at it. I’m thinking about this one. You will not be laughing at my fat ass, you will be laughing at — no, excuse me, with — my fabulously awful swim cap. At least that’s the story I’m stuck to for the nonce.

Meanwhile, in my above-the-water life, I have decided that itchy, hot full wigs can go fuck each other and have little itchy hairy babies without another dime from me. I have arrived at a compromise for when a hat or scarf won’t do, or I’m tired of them, and it’s this hairpiece from Jon Renau, matched to my natural color, with my bottom frizz straighened out with straightening cream. Maybe someday I’ll rip it off in public like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and freak everyone out.

Or not.